Worst/least-bad/best Haugen tunes
  • Cantor
    Posts: 84
    Can you put the following Haugen songs in increasing order of offensiveness? (All are well-known from Gather.) It’d be great if someone could articulate what offends (or redeems).

    Ps. 22 “My God, My God”
    Ps. 33 “Let Your Mercy Be On Us”
    Ps. 34 “Taste and See”
    Ps. 51 “Be merciful, O Lord”
    Ps. 66 “Let All the Earth”

    And let’s restrict this discussion to purely musical characteristics as much as possible.
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    Without my GC handy, I can't recall precisely, but I think 22. 33 and 51 are perfectly acceptable, though not as psalms, because (again, IIRC,) they do not respect the integrity of the text.
    66 i don't think I know.
    I find the melody of Taste and see absurdly "swoopy", calling attention to the singer rather than the text, enhancing the meaning of the words not at all. But I will occasionally use it as the communion piece, because some of my parish is attached to it.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    I'm so grateful that I do not have to make such choices.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    "I find the melody of Taste and see absurdly "swoopy", calling attention to the singer rather than the text, enhancing the meaning of the words not at all."

    I will do my level best to meet the request of the original poster and restrict my comments to the musical characteristics, but ISTM that the above comment is a difficulty that all of these song-based settings suffer from. I have come to appreciate the rather "objective" quality of the psalm tones over these melodic settings for that reason. The melodies and accompaniments go far to shape the interpretation of the text, the composer's interpretation. With chant formulas, each verse is sung to the same formula, thus removing any possibility of "interpretation" on the part of the singer.

    For example, in psalm 22, each verse features an overly-dramatic octave leap ("he re-LIED on the Lord . . .) that, while some may argue "enhances the text" it also draws attention away from it and to abilities (or lack thereof) of the singer.

    Similarly in psalm 22, I find the shift in "mood" for the last two verses rather jarring. The tonality shifts, the texture changes (equal quarter notes and triplet quarters set over a bass pedal) all seem too dramatic, drawing attention away from the text and toward the musical effect.

    I suppose a good test would be to sing these melodies a cappella. If they can stand on their own without the accompaniments, maybe they're acceptable. I only wish I didn't have to make such choices.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,230
    never did them, never will
  • Cantor
    Posts: 84
    Jeffrey and Francis,

    IMO, If you don’t know these pieces, you have no grounds to dismiss them.

    The point of this thread was to discuss the Haugen tunes that are not “Sing Out, Earth and Skies” or “O Taste and See”. Most of the time when people dismiss his music, they bring up one of those more eccentric pieces, ignoring the song-psalms that, other than Mass of Creation, probably enjoy more popularity than any of his other pieces. My hunch is that it’s quite a bit harder to pan these than the eccentric pieces.
  • This thread brings back memories.

    Ps. 22 "My God, My God":

    Pro: Refrain has range of an octave (c-c').

    Con: E-flat octave jump in verses 1-2 eliminates potential cantors unless setting is transposed down; general melodic disjointedness in refrain and verses.

    Ps. 33 "Let Your Mercy Be On Us":

    Pro: Predominantly diatonic/triadic motion; straightforward rhythm in the refrain; entire setting has a comfortable range of a minor seventh (d-c')

    Con: Two distinct melodies for the verses sometimes offer cantors/DMs a convenient excuse not to sing them during the liturgy

    Ps. 34 "Taste and See"

    Pro: Refrain has range of an octave (b,-b).

    Con: Upward "NBC-esque" sixth leap to open the refrain (I may have used that analogy to help cantors hit the interval at one point); three related, but distinct melodies for each of the verses; wide range in verse melodies (b,-e')

    Ps. 51 "Be merciful, O Lord"

    Pro: Not overly leapy; repetition of words of refrain is melodically similar and rhythmically equivalent; verse melodies are almost identical; reasonable range of an octave, albeit high (d-d').

    Con: Change in time signature can throw off the novice cantor; just enough rhythmic variation in the verses to throw off the complacent cantor; final upward fourth-third double leap in each verse can be hard for cantors — complacent, novice, etc. — to hit consistently.

    Ps. 66 "Let All the Earth"

    Pro: Repetition of the refrain melody means that the congregation has a chance to get the melody right the second time around; verse melodies are almost identical.

    Con: Range of refrain is a-c'' thanks to the tenor- and soprano-unfriendly outlier A at the beginning of the melody; just enough variation in the verse melodies to keep cantors on their toes.

    With that said, I am happy not to have to make such choices myself at the moment. I would also like to add that my objections to the oeuvre of Mr. Haugen stem precisely from having to teach the Celebration Series psalms at a former position. Teaching "Sing Out Earth and Skies" was a walk in the park compared to some of the settings mentioned.
  • Forgot to rank the settings:

    1. Psalm 33 (most acceptable)
    2. Psalm 51
    3. Psalm 22
    4. Psalm 66
    5. Psalm 34 (least acceptable)
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Believe me, believe me, oh oh oh believe me, I've been very very exposed to this material. With that said, I'll say no more.
  • Lawrence
    Posts: 123
    I don't mean to offend anyone--really. (I had a professor who used to say "....or maybe I do...." but I digress...)

    But...

    I have a bit of a philosophical question: If these pieces can indeed be ranked with any amount of confidence, does that not testify to their inferiority? When someone asks a well-educated musician about his three favorite classical pieces, or to rank the Beethoven symphonies, or to choose his three favorite polyphonic pieces, he is usually dumbfounded, and rightly so. To make such choices is to exclude so much that is so wonderful. Seriously, who could rank, for instance, the four Brahms symphonies with any amount of confidence without looking ridiculous?

    So....what I'm trying to say is that if one of these Psalms above can be certainly preferred over the others, is this not a testimony to the general weakness of these pieces?
  • Cantor
    Posts: 84
    Michael: I doubt anyone would put Beethoven 1 at the top of their list. Moreover, I doubt there could be any “objectivity” to the ranking that I propose. Even if so, no, I don’t think the ability to “rank” pieces testifies to the general inferiority of them all.

    Aristotle, I have never had the problems you describe teaching these psalm settings, but I imagine your cantors would have had just as much problem with Gelineau and would not have sounded very effective with unpulsed (Guimont/R&A/etc.) psalms, either. I’ll agree that the octave leaps in 22 are tricky and could probably be rewritten gainfully.

    Jeffrey, if you squirm at singing Haugen 51 but are happy to sing that old Catholic hymn (from one of the old-skool hymnals) that you posted on TNLM a while back, then we’ll just agree that polyphony and chant are great things and that much vernacular music is not so, accepting the disagreements otherwise.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    I don't see the point of this wrangling. This forum is great when it leads to learning and inspiration.
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